My mom often asks me, “Why are you always on your phone?” The reason is because I want to know what’s going on in the world and in the lives of my friends. And I’ve come to rely on my phone to help me easily gather this information.
Many members of my generation, known as Millennials — loosely defined as those people born anytime from the 1980s to the mid-to-late 1990s — grew up during the rise of the digital age. This means cell phones, laptops and social media play a huge role in our daily lives.
Many people I’ve encountered from previous generations, who did not grow up with the access to these technologies, seem to have a negative perception of Millennials and our habitual tech use.
But many of the negative comments I hear about Millennials are shortsighted.
The truth is technology has always been around. It has just become more advanced in the past couple decades as should be expected. Every generation has benefitted from technological advances that existed during their time, and Millennials are no different.
“This happens any time technology advances occur,” said Ralph Young, a history professor. “It happened with the Gutenberg Press and the Industrial Revolution.”
The use of technology is not specific to Millennials. People have always been relying on the newest innovations to make their lives easier and to entertain themselves.
“There’s a long history of interpretations of technology in American society going all the way back to the first railroads built in the 1830s,” said Kenneth Kusmer, a history professor. “Then you had the telegraph in the 1840s … then you have ultimately bicycles.”
“You have the automobile in 1900,” Kusmer added. “And then you have radio, and ultimately you have the television.”
Today we take many of these technologies for granted, but they were groundbreaking and mesmerizing innovations at the time of their creation.
The professors I’ve spoken with, however, have had critical reflections on the impact of today’s technology. They said that face-to-face interactions have become harder for younger people to maneuver because of digital communication and that the use of gadgets instead of pen and paper has affected Millenials’ ability to write well.
But the benefits of today’s technology, I believe, far outweigh the drawbacks. This technology has also allowed people to do things they couldn’t have done in the past like start a business online or spark social change with a hashtag.
And while I do understand the concerns I’ve heard, I have a feeling previous generations may have had similar concerns for the young people of their time.
Porsche Blakey, an adjunct instructor in the College of Education, said she thinks it is society as a whole that has become too dependent on technology, not just young people.
“To just narrow it down to Millennials seems a little bit unfair,” Blakey said.
When automobiles were first mass-produced in 1900, there were only 8,000 vehicles with registrations. The most recent data from 2014 shows there were 253 million vehicles registered on the road that year. Society itself became dependent on the technology of the automobile.
It seems that it is simply human nature to become attached to new technologies. Clearly, there is no generational problem that uniquely plagues Millennials.
Millennials are simply using the technology available to them just like every other generation before them did.
Each generation has had to learn how to best use current technology to meet their needs, and Millennials are no different.
Jensen Toussaint can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.